Always good advice to follow, but especially when wielding a powerful source of adrenaline.

My day started out like any other Saturday.  I was still nursing the headcold of the century and feeling rather sorry for myself.  Hubs was in Philly at the Home Show promoting his new podcast, and my kids were still milling around in their pajamas at 11AM.

Figuring that I’d feel better if I eliminated some of the clutter that seems to engulf me, I began shuffling papers and opening bags of prescription medication I had picked up the night before.  I opened a box of EpiPens that we keep on hand for my son’s nut allergies and placed them in a drawer.  I removed the old, outdated one and took it over to the sink.

Whenever I replace the old EpiPens, I always practice with them on a piece of fruit.  This is how they train medical professionals to use the instrument, and I figure it’s a good way to keep up on my skilz should I ever need to use one in a crisis situation.

Usually I read the directions carefully so as not to misfire, but I thought I remembered the drill.  I casually placed the EpiPen against the orange, and POP!

Into my thumb it went.

Yes, you read that right.  INTO MY THUMB.  I had the friggin’ thing upside down.

Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I am worthless in a crisis situation.  Utterly worthless.  I lose my mind.  I can’t think straight.  I FUH-REAK OUT.  This time was no different.  I started hollering, and my 8-year-old son came running.  I immediately grabbed the phone and dialed 911 while calling myself all sorts of derogatory names such as idiot and dumbass until the dispatcher answered the phone.

I explained the situation as I ran my thumb under cool water and absentmindedly tried to squeeze the epinephrine back out, an exercise in futility for sure.  They told me to make myself comfortable and they were on their way.

When the ambulance arrived, I was shaky but still coherent.  Mortified, I explained the situation, much to their amusement.  They assured me of what I already assumed, that there was really nothing they could do for me.  Then they explained that the worst case scenario was that my thumb would turn gray and cold and I would lose the tip of the digit.



So I guess I ought to go to the ER, so if it starts to get gray, they can do something about that, right?

Um, well.  They always recommend that you be seen, but there’s really nothing they can do.


Eventually I decided not to go anywhere.  The ER is the last place I care to spend a Saturday, and besides, I was alone with my three kids.  Sure, I could ditch them at a neighbor’s, but for what?  So I could watch my thumb turn gray and fall off in the nasty ER?  No thank you.  I’ll just stay here and suffer the consequences of my supreme stupidity in the comfort of my own home.

I signed some papers that basically said I understood the risks of going untreated, the range of possibilities being “none to death”.  I kid you not.  Then I said good-bye to the friendly EMTs and wished them a good day.

Naturally an ambulance in front of one’s house on a sunny Saturday morning attracts some attention from the neighbors, so that afternoon I got to answer a series of phone calls inquiring about my health and well-being, to which I explained a jillion times that no, I’m not sick or dying.  Just an idiot of monumental proportions.

As the day wore on and the thumb continued to feel prickly and swollen and became a disconcerting shade of gray, I began rethinking my decision not to be seen in the ER.  At the advice of a neighbor, I called poison control, who informed me that I should have soaked my thumb in warm water and massaged it vigorously for 30 minutes after the incident, and that there is a cream that could possibly help reverse the effects of the epinephrine should I decide to go to the ER.

Good to know.  Wish I had known FIVE HOURS AGO!

Long story longer, after my husband got home, we farmed out the kids and had ourselves a romantic little date in the ER.

Fortunately it was not overly busy, and we were seen quickly.  Two doctors looked at my thumb and determined that there should be no lasting damage.  They applied a thin layer of nitroglycerin paste and sent us on our merry way, and I spent the remainder of my Saturday night watching TV with a chocolate martini in my good hand and my bad hand soaking in a tub of warm water.  Shaddup, I deserved it!

Eventually I dozed off on the couch and woke a few hours later with the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced outside of childbirth throbbing in my thumb.  I can only liken it to the pain of a bad burn.

In my sleepy state, I tried to figure out how I was going to survive the night in such intense pain.  Then I remembered the script for Vicodin I had filled the day before.  (It is intended for use after I have my wisdom teeth extracted in two weeks.  Oh yes, the fun, it never ends around here.  Don’t you wish you were me?)  I gratefully located the bottle of pills and took one.  Within 10 minutes, the pain was gone, and I went to bed.

When I woke up Sunday morning, my thumb seemed to be intact.  The swelling was gone, the prickly feelings were gone, and the color was returning to normal.  It was still sore and bruised, but otherwise appeared to be in good health.  Unfortunately I couldn’t say the same for my head, but two cups of coffee and three Advils later and I was feeling well enough to go to church.

And there ends the saga of the EpiPen.

This is just the sort of calamity that always seems to befall me.  I don’t have ordinary accidents, have you noticed?  My friend S reminded me of the time in high school that I came to school by way of the ER because my hairdryer shorted out in my hand, burning my thumb (the same one, probably).  I had to go to school with this enormous gauze bandage wrapped around my hand, which naturally drew quite a bit of attention.

So then I got the pleasure of explaining how I managed to obtain such an unusual injury, much to the amusement of my teachers and classmates.  The looks on their faces were much like the looks I received from the EMTs and the ER staff when I told them I injected myself with an EpiPen while practicing on an orange.  Yep, just doing my part to keep the world around me entertained.

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81 thoughts on “RTFM

  1. Oh my! I’m so glad you didn’t lose your thumb! Thankfully, I’ve not had to use one on my son yet (and hopefully won’t), but I hope that if I ever do, I’ll remember to make sure my thumb isn’t in the way in case I do have it upside down! I do think that’s a great idea to practice on the fruit though – never thought of that!

  2. saw your comment on rocksinmydryer…there are 8 episodes of LOST being aired…of course there should be 16…dang writers strike!

  3. Wow! Not fun. But you know that. 🙂 I’m really glad that you’re healing in the right direction.

    If an EpiPen can do that much damage to the thumb, I would never want to use one! But then, in life threatening emergencies, of course I wouldn’t care. And also, I’m sure it goes on a big muscle, not a little thumb!

    How frustrating that the paramedics couldn’t really help you with that information at the time!!! And hey, check out your instincts! You immediately reacted by going to the water and massaging it.

  4. This is a hilarious story!!!! It sounds like something I would do and excatly how I would react! I am glad that your thumb is still intact~ Whew! That was a close one, wasn’t it? LOL

    Ahhhhhhhhhh… Nothing like dinner with the DH and a good chocolate martini, providing you didn’t try to soak your thumb in the cocktail!!!!

  5. Man.
    First off, great blog… I just stumbled across it today.

    Second. I can’t imagine! A few years back I triggered my old epipen just to see how it worked. Fortunately I faced it away from me, but the distance that the epinephrine achieved from our balcony was terrifying. Straight across the driveway and to the neighbour’s property. From that point forward I’ve had my doubts whether I could bring myself to actually use it if needed.

    Thanks again for the blog, it’s great!

  6. I am so glad you Twittered about this vintage post! It was very entertaining! So glad the whole saga ended well. My hubby has EpiPens for his food allergies and I am always afraid I wouldn’t know how to use them…so I may practice on fruit someday, too, but will ALWAYS remember your calamity in the back of my mind as a warning of what COULD happen!

    Merry Christmas!

  7. WHOA! That is horrible! Glad your thumb wound up being okay enough to type up that post and tell us! Where is the epi-pen supposed to be put, you know, if it really needed to be used? Sometimes I see kids in my daughter’s school with one around their neck, but I would have no idea what to do with it if the time ever came!

  8. I’m very thankful I have no need for EpiPens in my house because I’d probably inject myself in the face or something. I’m glad you’re ok and you’ll live to give thumbs up another day. I’m also glad that someone else experiences extraordinary accidents, I thought I was the only one.

  9. So I’m just reading this post after discovering your list of your favorite posts. I had seen the most popular list before, but never noticed the favorite one, LOL. This one is probably my favorite it on the list, because I once managed to stick myself in the thumb with my sister’s epipen when I was babysitting. Of course neither of my parents were answering their phones at the time. I didn’t call 911 but did end up taking a trip to the ER after my parents got home. They did have me use warm water, I don’t think they put anything on it though, it’s been over 10 years so my memory is getting fuzzy 🙂

  10. OMG…I just did the EXACT SAME THING…about 4 hours ago! My thumb is gray, cold and a tad bit tingly…I’m HOPING I wake up in the next 5 hours able to use it..,EGAD…if push comes to shove….I’ll go to the ER tomorrow!! I feel a little LESS worried knowing that you survived it…

  11. I SURVIVED!! I did not experience the child birth like pains…BUT…my thumb feels like it’s been STUNG by 1,454,537 BEE’S! It’s stiff and sore….but it is pink again! Your post SAVED me from a trip to the ER! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

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